Popular award-winning investigative journalist David Hundeyin, on 9th August 2022 tweeted: “Must have been nice to be a Nigerian journalist in the late 80s to the 90s. You didn’t actually have to be a Giwa or a Macebuh or anything close to that.
Just lay low, write watery opinion columns for 6 years and after the military left, you’ll be hailed as a “senior journalist”
These two paragraphs represents the story of many self-acclaimed ‘senior journalists’ parading themselves in bigger than life statuses, often trying to set a precedent that projects them as national heroes because they lived and did their version of journalism through the military era which was marred with extreme levels of military induced violence, human rights abuse and suppression of the press.
Dele Giwa: Creator Of The Blueprint For True Journalism In Nigeria
It was during this era that Nigeria’s foremost and celebrated journalist Dele Giwa, thrived and left his footprints in the sands of time. Giwa who would be killed by a letter bomb on 19th October 1986, two days after he was invited for questioning by the Department of State Service (DSS), then known as the State Security Service (SSS), was mourned as a national hero, he was just 39 years old as at the time he was killed. His killers were never found.
Talking about Giwa’s killer(s), even without a substantial amount of evidence to link the assassination to the military government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida who was Nigeria’s Head-of-State(1985-1993), it is widely believed that the broad daylight murder which occurred in Giwa’s Ikeja home, was carried out by state operators working for the military regime of Babangida.
There has been no official statement concerning the military governments’ involvement in this hideous crime, till this day.
The most common theory is that Dele Giwa was killed because of his frequent criticism of the government and his increasing popularity locally and internationally through his exclusive weekly publication, Newswatch magazine, and his many vocal tongue-lashing of the military government.
80’s & 90’s Journalism In Nigeria
There is no doubt that the 80’s and early to mid 90’s were dangerous times for journalists in Nigeria, which provided them little to no freedom to do proper & international standard journalism as entailed.
It is worthy of note that almost every occupation in Nigeria at the time were also endangered due to the very strict, unforgiving and high-handedness of the military administration, it therefore was no excuse for one to not put in their best, as the government’s use of force was a norm in those times.
This brings us to Sam Omatseye, a journalist who lived and worked through these times, he however was nowhere near the calibre and pedestal of the likes of Dele Giwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa or Stanley Macebuh. These were men who laid out the blueprint for journalism in Nigeria at the expense of their lives.
Journalism as a practice is one that must be carried out with neutrality. Sam Omatseye was at best a mediocre newspaper columnist who never explored the very dangerous and risky tides of true journalism, apparently for fear of his life, but isn’t that what journalism is all about? Journalism means baring the whole truth and nothing but the truth no matter the controversy it may stir or the negative vices that may suffice, that is ‘true journalism’.
A Political Tool
Sam Omatseye is a columnist and the editor of The Nation newspaper, one of Nigeria’s most widely read newspapers of the 2010’s, it’s popularity however dwindled as it became apparent to it’s reader audience that the Vintage Press product owned by former governor of Lagos State
Bola Tinubu, was riddled with bias, half-truths and deliberate attempts to malign specific significant personalities or political figures in the country who do not share their boss’s political ideologies, thus it became a political tool, one that Tinubu wielded happily using Omatseye as his wand.
Omatseye who also hosts programs on TVContinental (TVC), another media powerhouse owned by Tinubu, has used the platform to project the activities of his paymaster in positive light while making no hesitation in suppressing Tinubu’s political opponents when the need arises.
It is this obsession with suppression that led him to author an article marred with obscurity and inconspicuous elements in a bid to malign the Labour Party presidential flag bearer and favourite for the Aso Rock Top Job Peter Obi, who happens to be a huge threat to his oga’s delusional quest to become the president of Nigeria.
A Tainted Legacy
I will not glorify his article by mentioning it’s title here, but one thing that Omatseye failed to understand is that he has deliberately and on his own volition written and signed off his name on the register on the bad page of Nigeria’s history for just a few wads of dollar bills, a legacy that even his children will find hard to expunge.
A journalist presents and represents truth, that is the foundation that the practice was built on. For Omatseye to pen down a 2000 word article overrun with distasteful lies and outrightly ridiculous accusations without proof, it shows how hungry and desperate he is to get an extra paycheck from his boss.
The Delta State indigene who was at the forefront of the movement which ridiculed Goodluck Jonathan’s second term bid, has gotten away with his vengeful, bias and baseless journalism in the past 30 years has finally met his waterloo by ‘touching’ the anointed one Peter Obi, a man who leads a movement of over 100m Nigerians, mostly youths.
Barely 24 hours after making the controversial article, he again stirred up more controversy by accusing Peter Obi of threatening his life. Appparently, an army of Obi’s loyalists who identify as OBIdients, weren’t happy with Mr. Sam’s antecedent and so they swarmed his Twitter and Facebook inbox with varying degrees of threats for trying to sabotage their principal’s efforts by attempting to associate him with purveyors of social vices.
Sam Omatseye felt he was fully prepared for battle by making that article unbeknownst to him that he may have actually started a full-fledged war with the people, one which he almost certainly won’t survive and may inadvertently lead to his own obituary.